How to Plan Successful Events in Chicago

How to Plan a Successful Event in Chicago

“How do I plan an event?” As a venue that plans and hosts events in Chicago, we often get asked common questions about what is required to run a successful event. We’ve broken it down into four parts – Client, Concept, Structure, and Flow. Find answers to any events-related questions and inquires here!


There is no event without the client.

Whether you’re planning a birthday party for a family member, getting some friends together for a cocktail party, or planning a corporate holiday party, there is always a main contact. This contact is your client. For my role as the Events Director at Lakeshore Sport & Fitness, the event always starts with the client. My job is to make their vision come to life. When I am planning an event, I must always have the mindset that I am there to make it happen. And, if my client doesn’t have a vision, I am ready to get creative to make their event one to remember.

Now, the first step in creating a perfect event is for me to get to know my client. One of the most important parts of being an Events Director is building a professional relationship with the client. When someone is coming to me with a budget and an idea, it takes a lot of trust between myself and the client to ensure their event exceeds expectations. The easiest way to build this trust is to start a conversation with the client upon their initial event request! I get to know their vision, entertainment needs, budget, timing, food and drink preferences, event size, and most importantly – I know the date! Just simply finding out these details right off the bat makes any other requests down the line simpler to incorporate and makes for an overall better experience for my client. The more I know about my client and what their vision is, the better of a job I will do when planning and executing their event. It also helps me along the way in the other main event points!

To me, the client is #1. I am simply there as a means to guide them through the planning process, book their venue, take care of their food and beverage, and make sure all of their needs are met.


What is an event concept?

Well, in its simplest form, it is the goal you are trying to achieve, and is the absolute core of an event. The concept can be as broad as throwing together a cocktail party, with the concept being to celebrate the end of a long work week, or as specific as planning out a 300-person team-building event with the concept of trying to bring a community together. Whatever the concept may be, it is your end goal.

Think back to a time you may have gone to a friend’s birthday party, and left feeling like they weren’t really celebrated properly. Or maybe attended a work party to celebrate someone’s big promotion, but all that was served was a small plate of cookies with water and pop. These are examples where there was a clear concept, but the event didn’t particularly meet the goal. It is easy to have an idea for an event, but the point of having a concept is that everyone leaves feeling like they knew what was being celebrated, and had a blast doing so. That is what it means to meet the goal of the concept.

The concept can be easily met. It just takes some extra work! Good news is, that is what I am here for. In the example of the coworker’s promotion, some simple ways I would have spiced up the event would be to add an eye-catching sign saying “Congrats Greg on the Big Promotion!” Or even incorporating some easy card games to get the coworkers to interact more. This way, even if the only other aspects were cookies, water, and pop, there was a tiny bit of extra love put into the event to remind everyone why they are celebrating.

One of my favorite parts of my job is meeting the concept. With a clear concept in mind, it makes finalizing details a breeze. When a client comes to me with an idea and a budget, it can be very easy to get off track. The client might want to add additional lighting, decorations, or entertainment that might not pertain to the concept at all. However, when I have a clear concept in mind, it helps me stay on track, and helps keep my clients budget in check. When all is said and done, I love seeing attendants leave with smiles on their faces – and I know I met my goal.

A big part of achieving the concept is having a very clear understanding of what is and isn’t doable. In my role, I am thankful to have a 120,000 square foot facility to play around with, a phenomenal team at my side, a delicious and extensive catering menu, and access to anything and everything my client might request (and I mean everything… we’ve had fire dancers perform at LSF before). With all of this in reach, it allows me to make any client’s vision come to life. And what’s more important or rewarding than achieving the concept of my client?


Now that I know who my client is and what their concept is, it is time to get some structure.

Structure is fitting together all the puzzle pieces of an event. I might have an event with 150 attendants with 50 of them being children, a band, a full buffet, open bar, and a raffle with prizes all in celebration of someone’s 50th birthday party, but how am I going to make all of those aspects coexist? My job is to figure that out. I need to plan and know how all of these will fit together to ultimately deliver an incredible event that meets the concept.

One of the biggest secrets to seamlessly create structure is to have great organization and a creative mind. Thinking about the 50th birthday party event, I need to make sure I have a very clear understanding of what my client wants, what the concept is, and have everything ordered and ready to go. This does not just happen through emails or phone calls with my client. I need to start planning and booking! But how can I remember everything my client wants? How do I figure out where I am going to put everything? How do I remember what food they ordered? And most importantly… Where is the cake going to be served?! For me, this all is one simple answer. STAY ORGANIZED!

I keep a folder for each event that is constantly being updated with every detail a client has mentioned to me. With this folder, I have an accessible reference point to double check I am meeting all of my client’s needs and don’t leave any details out. This is the core of my structure. How can you complete a puzzle in an efficient and timely fashion when you leave all of the pieces scrambled in the box?

Well the simple answer is you can’t. However, when you have all of the pieces neatly laid out in front of you, it becomes very easy to figure out how to fit them all together.

As I fit together the puzzle pieces of my event, I not only develop a clear understanding of how everything will flow together, but I also get a clear understanding of the venue I need to use. The venue is the key to making my puzzle pieces fit. For example, Lakeshore Sport & Fitness offers at least 10 different spaces to rent. And that initial 10 doesn’t even include our 110 foot indoor climbing wall or our squash courts! Having all of these spaces available makes placing the puzzle pieces simple and effective. With a budget in mind along with the concept, I have all the tools necessary to make the event spectacular.

Without a solid structure, your event won’t be successful. Having clear organizational skills, a creative mind, and incredible venues at my fingertips helps me make every event especially amazing. If you have an event in mind, or need help planning one, I am always available to help! Lakeshore Sport & Fitness is not only a resource for all your event needs, but an actual venue to host your next outing.


You have your client, you have your concept, you have your structure. Now, we are met with the final step. How to make your event flow.

Flow is a very important aspect to an event. It is the most important part of the execution process. If you did every lead up step correctly, then the only planning you need to prioritize is the actual flow of the event. But what is “flow”? Well, it is pretty much what it sounds like. It is the seamless progression throughout the event.

Imagine you are putting together a field day for 1st graders. You have a relay race, egg toss, watermelon eating contest, and cake walk planned. Now, let’s say you have 30 1st graders attending this field day. You have your structural pieces laid together. You know the activities. You know it is taking place in the school soccer field and blacktop. You know you have ordered the supplies, and you know you have the grand prize cake waiting to be awarded. But how do you organize the kids moving from one activity to another without it feeling rushed or choppy? How do you direct the staff to follow that very same procedure? Well, that is where the flow comes in. The flow is how you transition from the beginning to the end of an event, and everything in between. For me, the flow of this event directly relates to having a staff member (or two… or three… maybe four…) to guide the children from one activity to another.

My job as an Events Director is to make sure everything flows. It is my job to communicate and delegate with my team members so everyone is not only on the same time schedule, but also have the same concept in mind. For an example like a 1st grader field day, my team and I have the concept of making sure the children experience a fun outdoor play day. It also means the parents have a great time watching their kids participate in organized competition games. To execute a flawless flow, it is my responsibility to make sure my team knows the timing of the event. I do this by keeping my team up-to-date with every detail regarding the event. No task gets accomplished perfectly by just one individual when it comes to an event. While having the amazing team I do at LSF, I can easily make a 1st grade field day flow perfectly. I can do this not only by knowing my client, knowing the concept, having a clear understanding of the structure, but by knowing how to execute the flow of an event and having the venue to do so.

The key to client satisfaction is, as mentioned before, fitting all the puzzle pieces together to create a seamless flow of the event. Flow can not be achieved without all other aspects put together.

Planning Events in Chicago

If you’re looking to host an event in Chicago and this all seems too much for you to handle, let us do it for you! That’s what we’re here for. Click the button below to book a private event at Lakeshore Sport & Fitness – Illinois Center!

Let Us Help Plan Your Event!

Written by Emily McCormack, Events Director at Lakeshore Sport & Fitness – Illinois Center

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